False on the Food Poverty Crisis: 25 Online Examples

Brad’s Disclaimer:

The articles I criticize here were typically written by some of those few people who had the sense of decency, (including long term,) to know a lot about the farm and food poverty crisis, and to try to bring it to the attention of the public.


My view is that, behind the crisis, is a savage dilemma.  The key source of wealth creation in LDCs is in raising food, which is, at the same time, necessary for survival. Higher farm prices are important in fixing the long term causes of the farm/food poverty crisis, but also make it much worse in the short term, (and it was devastating to start with).


Published on Thursday, July 24, 2008 by The Guardian/UK
Rising Food Prices Pushing East Africa to Disaster, Warns Oxfam, by Xan Rice
“Oxfam says that in the remote Somali and Afar regions, cereal prices have increased by up to 500%, while livestock are dying due to lack of water.
In Somalia the rice price has more than tripled since May 2007….
Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s chief executive, said the UK public had the right to question why the appeals “happen year after year”. “The answer is that the world consistently fails to address adequately the underlying causes of these crises. Chronic poverty”
Brad Comment: Here, by implication, Oxfam argues that we should return to the lower farm prices of the recent past, which is true for their short term goal of purchasing food to give to the poor, but which directly contradicts their own conclusion that poverty is the underlying cause of the continuing food crisis.  1999-2005 farm prices, 2009 dollars (GDP deflator) were the lowest on record going back to 1933.  Note:  UN ESA data shows Somalia, a Least Developed Country, as 62.6% rural for 2010, in desperate need of fair trade farm prices.
Published on Sunday, July 20, 2008 by The Washington Post

Africa’s Women Last and Least in Food Crisis, by Kevin Sullivan“A year ago, before food prices nearly doubled, Lingani would have had three meals a day of meat, rice and vegetables. ..

In poor West African nations such as Burkina Faso, mealtime conspires against women.
Soaring prices for food and fuel have pushed more than 130 million poor people across vast swaths of Africa, Asia and Latin America deeper into poverty in the past year, according to the U.N. World Food Program. But while millions of men and children are also hungrier,…
Burkina Faso, where the United Nations says nearly 72 percent of the country’s 15 million people live on less than $2 a day….
She said the cost of six pounds of cornmeal has risen from 75 cents to $1.50. A kilogram — 2.2 pounds — of rice cost 60 cents last year and costs a little more than $1 now.
Brad’s Comments:  ….All of this from both misses some key historical facts….  .  Food and fuel aren’t quite on the same scale…. In the 1970s they were comparable, …. So we said, “a barrel of oil for a bushel of wheat.” But now wheat is under $10 and oil has hit $140…. But it’s more than this. Corn, wheat, rice, cotton, soybeans, sorghum grain, oats and barley all lost money in the market place under U.S. farm bills that lowered and eliminated price floors and supply management over 55 years. That’s what devastated the rural regional of the world,…  But cheap, below cost grain and cotton wasn’t wonderful for struggling Africa, for example. It was devastating! It was huge in leading to $2 per day….  Not subsidies. They raise corn prices 3%, or cotton 10% while dumping reached 61% below cost on cotton, and nearly 30% on corn….   Subsidies are a false hope put forth by free trade WTO and Cargill/ADM/Tyson lobbyists….  [Note: Burkina Faso is an LDC, 79.6% rural for 2010]
Published on Thursday, July 10, 2008 by The Huffington Post, Good Grief, Gordon Brown!, by Frances Moore Lappe
From Brad’s Comment:  some points here seem to be misleading. I do not see any indication that, from 1981 through 2006 (with serious growing problems since the 1950s, but exceptions during the 1970s), the primary world hunger crisis was low farm prices, not high farm prices. This is primarily what has created the situation of hunger today, devastation of rural regions for decades….
4.   http://www.commondreams.org/view/2008/11/18-0#comment-1080055
Published on Tuesday, November 18, 2008 by CommonDreams.org
“Ending Poverty: Moving Beyond More Aid and Fair Trade,” by Davinder Kaur
Brad’s Comment:  1. On Greed. Paradoxically, the U.S. has been unwilling to make a profit on food/farm-commodity exports, driving down world prices and destroying economies of poor rural countries (most of the poor countries)…. To make a profit we need, (not a “free” market free of subsidies, but) price floors with supply management….
2. On Subsidies. To say that “heavily subsidized goods flood the markets of poor countries, wreaking havoc on domestic producers and driving many out of business and into poverty” or to speak of “dump(ing) subsidized food” is to miss the bigger argument (#1 above). Yes, this is how people have been taught to frame the argument, but it misses the big billions and trillions (#1). Yes, this all happens, but not because of subsidies. We know this from the historical record. …
Published on Monday, December 29, 2008 by The Independent/UK
“Year of The Hungry: 1,000,000,000 Afflicted,” by Geoffrey Lean
Brad Comment:  … here in this article … I see no discussion of the role of the farm economy in LDCs in this crisis….
The article states that “the growth in hunger is not occurring, as in the past, because of shortage of food.” Oh really? Well let’s explain that! Certainly there has NOT been a shortage of food grains in the world export markets in recent decades …. Yet there is no explanation for how, given the … surplusses … the “shortages” occurred. Obviously, people have been hungry, malnourished, starving. They were short on food, one way or another. But the world was not short on food. That didn’t happen….
Published on Sunday, January 18, 2009 by the Sunday Herald/UK, “2008: Year of the Global Food Crisis,” by Kate Smith/Rob Edwards
Brad Comment: … I don’t doubt ” a food crisis in 36 countries,” “21 … in Africa.” But there is NO mention that low farm prices, not high farm prices, are the long term cause (while the spike in prices, IN THIS CONTEXT, is the short term cause. NO mention of dumping and all the dumping related scandals at WTO related, supposedly, to farm subsidies….
Ok, “Lesotho and Swaziland … Sierra Leone … Ghana, Kenya and Chad,” for example: what’s wrong with their economic engines? Why the poverty behind the hunger? 1980 & 2005: Lesotho 88.8 & 76.7% rural, Swaziland 82.2 & 75.9% rural, Sierra Leone 70.9% & 60.2% rural, Ghana 68.8% & 52.2% rural, Kenya 84.3% & 79.3% rural, Chad 81.2% & 74.7% rural: LDCs 82.7& 73.0% rural, respectively. Over the period of extreme US dumping and oversupply (1981-2006) rural populations declined, but they remain high. No mention of low prices hurting these rural countries….
World Bank: “global food prices have risen by 75% since 2000, while wheat prices have increased by 200%. The cost of other staples such as rice and soya bean have also hit record highs, while corn is at its most expensive in 12 years.” But 9/25 parity was 25% and 26% for corn and rice, 32% for soybeans. Let’s not be relativists. We needed 4 fold or 3 fold increases to stop dumping and have fair trade.
In real terms we’re did not likely hit record highs, if you look at US farm prices and apply a GDP deflator.
“If we continue to grow crops to feed cars rather than people, we’re in trouble?” Not if biofuels continuously bring profitability to LDC farmers, stimulating living wage hiring throughout these regions.
Published on Friday, January 9, 2009 by The Guardian/UK, “The Outcry Is Muted, But The Food Crisis Is Getting Worse,” by Jayati Ghosh
Brad Comments: ….1. Just as the “food crisis” has been neglected, so too the dumping crisis has been forgotten….we must not try to fix the food crisis by again dumping on LDC farmers. They need fair trade, “living wage” prices. We must pay these prices to LDC farmers as we feed the hungry,…
2. Paradoxically, then, the food crisis is also, to a certain extent, a boom for related LDC farmers….
4. I quote the article: “aggressive trade liberalisation” …”exposed southern farmers to heavily subsidised marketing by northern agribusinesses.” Meaning dumping, I assume. Yes, liberalisation. Yes, farmers (and exporters for years) were heavily subsidized. But don’t misunderstand. Subsidies are corelated with low prices oversupply and dumping, but they do not cause it. Don’t listen to the free traders at WTO on this,
5. The article fails to mention a “fair trade,” “living wage” standard for farm prices…..
ublished on Friday, August 17, 2007 by the Independent/UK, “US Food Aid is ‘Wrecking’ Africa, Claims Charity,” by Leonard Doyle
Brad Comments: ….On food or farm subsidies such as corn, however, the article gives the mainstream media distortion line and not an accurate description of the problem. …
The problem is low market prices, which is different than the suggestion that farmers are overpaid so they’ll grow more corn. … Low market prices destroy farmers in Africa and elsewhere….
It’s not a farm lobby that gets this through congress….
Wednesday, February 23, 2011, “Anti-Hunger Groups Unveil Plan to Cut Hunger, Bread for the World.”
Brad’s Comments: …On the other hand, I’d like to also see the connection to the commodity title of the U.S. farm bill. African American farmers, for example, have called for a “fair living wage” for farmers,…
In this domain, Bread for the World’s “Hunger 2007” on the Farm Bill did not endorse necessary reforms: no price floors, no supply management, no grain reserves, no price ceilings. …
Finally, there is nothing here to address the dilemma that, at root, people are impoverished and hungry (especially in rural areas world wide) to a significant degree because of chronically low farm prices, not because of the recently higher farm prices which temporarily and severely aggravate the problem. …
Published on Monday, January 26, 2009 by Agence France Presse, World Must Double Food Production by 2050: FAO Chief
Brad’s Comments:  …But we’ve had hunger for decades with no shortage of food, but rather a price depressing surplus, which has run LDCs, which are still 73% rural, into poverty….
Oh, and it’s not subsidies that cause any of this, it’s the lowering of price floors and supply management….
The root cause of the food crisis is low farm prices. Let’s not forget what we said only a few years ago. “Stop dumping our farm exports!” …
Published on Tuesday, January 27, 2009 by Inter Press Service, “Food Summit – Concern Yes, Concrete Steps No, by Tito Drago.”
Brad’s Comments:  …Specifically false: “One positive aspect, according to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), was the conference’s call to ‘eliminat(e) all forms of competition-distorting subsidies, in order to stimulate and conduct agricultural trade in a fair way.’”… Amber boxes are supposedly distorting. … Green boxes (U.S. Direct Payments are supposedly not distorting)….
3. Subsidies do not cause overproduction or low prices
Published on Monday, January 26, 2009 by Agence France Presse, “Call for New Focus on Food Security Ahead of Madrid Meeting”
Brad’s Comments:  …”there is only a thin line between plentiful food at low prices and crippling shortages, even famine,”
We haven’t had shortages, only the inability to pay. We’ve had crippling surpluses, resulting in prices way below full costs….
The thin line illustration is a poor one and misleading. In TRUTH there are TWO LINES. LIne A is the farm price high enough to generate living wages in LDCs. Line B is the food price low enough for LDC populations to afford enough quantity of high quality, nutritious food. The problem is NOT that there is little breathing room between the two lines. The problem is that, with LDCs 73% rural, and their farmers going broke with low prices for a quarter century, their whole economies have been devastated and wages are so low people only make a few dollars per day. …,The gap between the lines is not “thin,” they’ve crossed way beyond each other. It’s a reverse gap, and it’s large.
So it’s a huge dilemma….
Published on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 by Inter Press Service, “UN Seeks a Green Revolution in Food,” by Thalif Deen
Brad’s Comments:  …. 1. The article makes no mention that low farm prices, not high, are the root cause of the crisis. It suggests the opposite of this truth….
2. The article makes no mention of a standard for a fair trade price. It only suggests a need for lower prices. Therefore it encourages dumping! Yea, it says prices rose from what they were a few years ago. There is no discussion of what a fair standard would really be.
3. The article is weak on the agribusiness role in dumping. (Well, it doesn’t exist in the article.) Hey, they called for reducing and eliminating price stabilization policies we had from the New Deal. They called for running 1/3 of US farmers off the land within five years,
“Rice Prices Look To Head Up,” by Natasha Chart · January 09, 2009
(LINK:  Rice prices set to surge again this year: rice experts, (AFP) – Jan 8, 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i-At-h5AJMzC62q8E-wdYiQ-LH2A)
Brad’s Comments:  Here, and in the linked rice article, there is no standard for a fair trade, living wage rice price.  There’s talk of higher and lower, but it’s relative. For example, the linked article says rice rose to 1,080 dollars a tonne last April [2008],… then slid to about 575 dollars six months later.”  Then, Least Developed Countries are 70% rural, dependent upon fair trade rice etc. prices, but rice prices were below full costs (USDA-ERS) every single year 1982-2006 (& often well below zero).  That’s one standard.  We don’t want LDC farmers to go back to below cost rice prices as a solution to the poverty our export dumping fostered in the first place (for a quarter century).
“The Hungerwashing of Industrial Farming,” by Natasha Chart · January 05, 2009
Brad.  There are some two sided issues here that are often misunderstood.  One is that hunger has not been caused by an overall shortage of food, but by poverty and the inability to buy food.  … Second, biofuels, in using grain, help end cheap corn, help bring fair trade farm prices to LDCs.  That also helps end biofuels, as they’re dependent upon below cost grain.
“The 10 Countries Doing the Most to Reduce Global Hunger,” by Sarah Parsons · October 12, 2010
Brad’s Comments: But what’s the status of reducing the poverty that generates the hunger.
There’s a huge dilemma here.  The link here to the “index” emphasizes the “global food price crisis.” But the poorest countries (Least Developed Countries) are 70% rural, dependent upon high, not low farm prices to generate wealth & jobs. … we export “dumped” on them … for a quarter century (below our full costs, … as US family farmers fought back, for fair trade prices, but lost. … A year or 2 of higher prices doesn’t reverse 25 years, AND it generates a larger food price crisis.  We need to feed the hungry not by returning to dumping level cheap corn/rice/wheat, but by buying at fair trade prices from LDC farmers, then giving free to their poor, and keep doing it long enough until sufficient wealth & jobs are generated in LDCs.
“’Feed the Future’ Plan Benefits U.S. Profits, Not World’s Hungry,” by Jean Stevens · August 06, 2010
Brad’s Comments: Following the Feed the Future link here to their “fact sheet,” a “solution is:  “1 Accelerate … agriculture sector growth through 2 agricultural productivity, 3 expanded markets and trade and 4increased economic resilience in vulnerable rural communities.” (numbers added). 1 Excellent goal, BUT. 2 Usually made oversupply, low income, hunger, (ie. 1981-06). 3 A false solution, … Export focus INSTEAD of fair trade prices (farm bill price floors) CAUSED the problem! 4So the result will be LESS resiliance (& less ag sector growth).  But, these same policies (allowing oversupply & cheap corn, etc.) also reduce profit for the US on our farm exports, …Our commodity subsidies are very unfair, BUT are not the cause of the low farm prices.  Our lack of price floors & supply management (Commodity Title of Farm Bill) are the true policy cause.
The US Farm Bill and the Global Food Crisis, by Joe Bialek
Brad’s Comments:  …1. USDA didn’t pay farmers “the difference,” 1933-1961…. 2. The need is ongoing, not temporary. 3. The present farm bill has no price floors, etc., it’s not “continued.”  4. It’s overproduce, not “under produce”… 5. You have it backwards. Overproduction and dumping exports below cost for a quarter century and (below a fair trade price for many more years) caused massive poverty in Least Developed Countries (70%+ rural). This is the true cause of the food crisis, not out temporary lack of dumping 2007-8)….We must not dump on them more as a “solution” to the food crisis. 6. We’ve almost always had a surplus of food, and we should 1st build up reserves, then manage supply to “halt” some production to help raise prices to end LDC poverty. 7. Subsidies are not what’s corrupt. They’re for massive losses, as USDA Economic Research Data clearly show …. What’s corrupt is that the US lost money for a quarter century, … causing massive poverty and starvation in LDCs.
ANDREW KANG BARTLETT, “Farm Bill, Food/Commodity Prices and Biofuels.”
From Brad’s Comment:  This article portrays half truths which work severely against food justice in the U.S. and worldwide. I will document the evidence below. I don’t dispute the facts presented, (the half that’s true,) only the omissions that reverse the unjust conclusions…..
Ok,what’s missing? First, one thing that’s no mentioned, (and Andrew Kang Bartlett surely knows this,) is that only a few years ago the discussion was all about dumping, exporting from the U.S., for example, at below cost, causing massive poverty, hunger and starvation around the world…..
Also not mentioned: what is a fair, living wage farm price?…
Finally, … food price increases are cited (half) with no mention of farm share. The farm share of the food dollar decreased for many decades. …
Clearly, U.S. and world farmers and their farm prices are not to blame for the food crisis!…We must reverse these disguised new calls for dumping. …
Food Crisis, Trade and GM crops
, By Devinder Sharma
Brad:  Note that he’s emphasizing trade liberalization as a huge cause of the food crisis, and he emphasizes trends going back 40 years. Although he doesn’t actually say it, he’s talking about LOW farm market prices here and worldwide, not high prices.  This is an example of a wholly inadequate message for a US audience.
The Commodities Bubble, By Sameer Dossani, Source: Foreign Policy In Focus, Monday, June 30, 2008
From Brad’s Comment: This article, while helpful, does not overcome some key shortcomings of mainstream media coverage of farm issues. 1. There is no mention of the end of dumping on LDC farmers for many commodities due to the price bubble. This is a huge benefit, as the U.S. purposely lost money on exports of farm “program crops….There is, then, no mention of the specific hunger vs prosperity paradox in the current price bubble, a paradox which could be resolved by measures like those discussed below. 2. There is no mention of the primary U.S. policy mechanisms which have successfully managed these economic factors in the past and the current proposals for extending them globally.
Jennifer Clapp, “Food Price Volatility:  What Was and Wasn’t Said in the Leaked Report to the G-20”
See Brad’s comments online.
23.   http://www.lavidalocavore.org/diary/4560/the-perfect-storm-of-food, The Perfect Storm of Food, by: Eddie C,  Thu Mar 03, 2011 at 13:41:18 PM PST (La Vida Locavore is NO LONGER ONLINE.)
See Brad’s comments online.
24.   http://us.oneworld.net/guides/trade, See Brad’s blog, “UK’s OneWorld Wrong on Farm Subsidies,” http://www.zcomm.org/uks-oneworld-wrong-on-farm-subsidies-by-brad-wilson
25.   http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2011/03/03-0, “New Map Reveals Hot Spots in Emerging Global Food Crisis: ActionAid and EWG Collaborate on Cutting-Edge Food Price Tool,” Press Release.
See Brad’s comments online.
Author’s note.  Since this was written in 2011, I have a number of additional examples, and new blogs related to this, with many more online comments.  I’ve also done a lot of additional data crunching related to the issues.

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